Today is her birthday, my precious first born.
I realize I am half done raising her now that she's NINE. I can't really wrap my mind around it: halfway! It is also so strange that she is permanently my first born. And with that status comes an order that never changes. With your first born, motherhood doesn't get easier.
When I was pregnant, entertaining all my naive notions of what my life would soon be like, I expected I would gradually and consistently improve at mothering. What I did not realize was that the child I'd be mothering would be changing at a more rapid rate than I could keep up with. As soon as I'd master her routine or finally nail down a solution for a particular problem, that skill would become obsolete as she quickly grew. The routine would change, or a new problem would arise, both in which I was completely unskilled. In retrospect, does it help me that I finally figured out how to put her down for a nap without a pacifier? NO! That problem threatening to consume me at one point had a valuable solution for a matter of months, and a new challenge was happy to take it's place. So in the long run, the only thing I've gotten better at is expecting the constant change, the constant challenge, for both of us.
That firstborn. If you have one, you may already know what I mean. Or you may be slowly discovering this: you're always in a new stage. Always heading into uncharted territory. Always trying to find your footing on the shifting soil. With my first born, I was schooled in nursing, putting a baby to sleep, moving to solid foods, teething, then first steps, potty training, preschool, kindergarten, first grade, second grade, third grade. She has always been the first. I have always been trying to keep up, pouring through books on baby care and discipline, remembering the rules of long division and the line between subject and predicate. She is the first to gain from all my parenting knowledge, and the first to suffer from all my errors.
I must be honest with myself here, with you, and with her. It's harder for us. It harder for me to never know what to expect one stage to the next, and it's harder for her having a mama who is constantly inexperienced in mothering a child her age. In contrast, my younger one and I have a smoother time, as I feel familiar with what is coming next, and he surely benefits from that. He gets a more relaxed and skilled mother. And so my journey as a mom of my daughter is slightly more stressful, and slightly more intense. Because she is special. I could have ten more children, and she'd still be the only first. We grow together. Not only am I raising a daughter, but she is raising a mother.
In a sense, my daughter has taught me everything I know about motherhood, and a heck of a lot about love. And I am not always a good student of her. She has not always been a patient teacher (hello, toddlerhood!) and neither have I. But every single day, we've schooled together for these sacred nine years. I pray someday she understands why our relationship is woven with as many failures as there are momentous firsts. They go hand in hand, I'm afraid.
I'm sure the next nine years will be more of the same: glorious, terrifying, beautiful change. May 31st, 2002, I was called to be a mama, to be with her every step of the way. And I couldn't feel more blessed to be hers.
My darling daughter, your heart inspires me, your gifts amaze me, and your love humbles me. If God lined up all the girls in the whole wide world, I'd choose you. Happy Birthday.